being done in the classroom. Even when the field trip does align with work being covered at school, connections between the two experiences often are not made. What’s more, when teachers do try to have a discussion after the field trip, often it involves little more than asking students if they enjoyed the experience. When well-designed examples of classroom follow-up have been documented, they are in fact associated with positive educational impacts.


While most field trips may involve one structured activity and a half hour of unstructured time, the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) has developed a different type of field trip experience. Not only is the informal science program aligned with the school science curriculum, it also gives students entry to a state-of-the-art facility, the Cohen Center for Interactive Learning, housed at the GMRI.

The following case study describes LabVenture!, the GMRI program that is available to all middle school teachers and their fifth- and sixth-grade students in Maine. To date, more than 10,800 students from 177 schools throughout the state’s 16 counties have participated in the program. It is an example of an ongoing relationship between a scientific facility and the schools that allows students to work with scientific instruments and use the skills of science to answer a compelling real-world problem.

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